With apologies to Richard Connell.
“Off to the right–somewhere–is a large island,” said Whitney. “It’s rather a mystery–”
“What island is it?” Renee asked.
“The old charts call it `Authoress Island,”‘ Whitney replied.” A suggestive name, isn’t it? Sailors have a curious dread of the place. I don’t know why. Some superstition–”
“Can’t see it,” remarked Renee, trying to peer through the dank tropical night that was palpable as it pressed its thick warm blackness in upon the yacht.
“It will be light enough in Rio,” promised Whitney. “We should make it in a few days. I hope the jaguar guns have come from Purdey’s. We should have some good hunting up the Amazon. Great sport, hunting.”
“The best sport in the world,” agreed Renee.
“For the hunter,” amended Whitney. “Not for the jaguar.”
“Don’t talk rot, Whitney,” said Renee. “You’re a big-game hunter, not a philosopher. Who cares how a jaguar feels?”
“Perhaps the jaguar does,” observed Whitney.
“Bah! They’ve no understanding.”
“Even so, I rather think they understand one thing–fear. The fear of pain and the fear of death.”
“Nonsense,” laughed Renee. “The hot weather is making you soft, Whitney. Be a realist. The world is made up of two classes–the hunters and the huntees. Luckily, you and I are hunters. Do you think we’ve passed that island yet?”
“I can’t tell in the dark. I hope so.”
An abrupt sound startled her – off to the right she heard it, and her ears, expert in such matters, could not be mistaken. Again she heard the sound, and again. Somewhere in the darkness, someone had fired a gun three times.
Renee sprang up and moved to the rail. She strained her eyes in the direction from which the reports had come, but it was like trying to see through a blanket. She leaped upon the rail and balanced herself there, but realized she had reached too far and lost her balance. The cry that came from her lips was pinched short as the blood-warm waters of the sea closed over her head.
When she opened her eyes she was sprawled across a harsh and forbidding shore. She knew from the position of the sun that it was late in the afternoon. She was not yet frightened.
“Where there are pistol shots, there are people,” she thought. But what kind of people in so strange a place? An unbroken front of snarled and ragged jungle fringed the shore. She picked her aching body up and heading down the coastline, but not far from her resting-place she stopped.
Some wounded thing–by the evidence, a large animal–had thrashed about in the underbrush; the jungle weeds were crushed down and the moss was lacerated; one patch of weeds was stained crimson. A small, glittering object not far away caught Renee’s eye and she picked it up. It was an empty cartridge.
Renee came upon the lights as she turned a corner in the coastline. An enormous building with pointed towers plunged upward into the gloom. Her eyes made out the shadowy outlines of a palatial chateau; it was set on a high bluff, and on three sides of it cliffs dived down to where the sea licked greedy lips in the shadows.
The stone steps were real enough; the massive door with a leering gargoyle for a knocker was real enough; yet above it all hung an air of unreality.
Renee lifted the heavy knocker, and let it fall. The door opened then–opened as suddenly as if it were on a spring–and Renee stood blinking in the river of glaring gold light that poured out. The first thing Renee’s eyes discerned was the tallest woman Renee had ever seen–a gigantic creature, solidly made and with hair unbound to the waist. In her hand the woman held a long-barreled revolver, and she was pointing it straight at Renee’s heart.
Two bright and brilliant eyes regarded Renee.
“Don’t be alarmed,” said Renee, with a smile which she hoped was disarming. “I’m no robber. I fell off a yacht. My name is Renee Sanger – of New York City.”
The menacing look in the eyes did not change. The revolver pointing as rigidly as if the giant were a statue. She gave no sign that she understood Renee’s words, or that she had even heard them. She was dressed in uniform–a black uniform trimmed with gray astrakhan.
“I’m Renee Sanger of New York,” Renee began again. “I’m sorry if I’ve troubled you, but I’ve fallen off my yacht and can’t -”
The woman’s only answer was to raise with her thumb the hammer of her revolver. Then Renee saw the woman’s free hand go to her forehead in a military salute, and she saw her click her heels together and stand at attention. Another woman was coming down the broad marble steps, an erect, slender woman in evening clothes. She advanced to Renee and held out her hand.
In a cultivated voice marked by a slight accent that gave it added precision and deliberateness, she said, “It is a very great pleasure and honor to welcome Ms. Renee Sanger, the celebrated hunter, to my home.”
Automatically Renee shook the woman’s hand.
“I’ve read your book about hunting snow leopards in Tibet, you see,” explained the woman. “I am J.K. Rowling – but you may call me the General.”
Renee’s first impression was that the woman was singularly lovely; her second was that there was an original, almost bizarre quality about the woman’s face. She was a tall woman past middle age, and her eyes were black and very bright. She had high cheekbones, a sharp-cut nose, a spare, dark face–the face of a woman used to giving orders, the face of an aristocrat. Turning to the giant in uniform, the general made a sign. The giant put away her pistol, saluted, withdrew.
“Stephenie Meyer is an incredibly strong woman,” remarked the general, “but she has the misfortune to be deaf and dumb. A simple woman, but, I’m afraid, like all her race, a bit of a savage.”
“Is she Russian?”
“She is a Cossack,” said the general, and her smile showed red lips and pointed teeth. “So am I.”
“Come,” she said, “we shouldn’t be chatting here. We can talk later. Now you want clothes, food, rest. You shall have them. This is a most restful spot.”
Stephenie had reappeared, and the general spoke to her with lips that moved but gave forth no sound.
“Follow Stephenie, if you please, Ms. Sanger,” said the general.
It was to a huge, beam-ceilinged bedroom with a canopied bed big enough for six men that Renee followed the silent giant. Stephenie laid out an evening gown, and Renee, as she put it on, noticed that it came from a London tailor who ordinarily cut and sewed for none below the rank of duchess.
The dining room to which Stephenie conducted her was in many ways remarkable. There was a medieval magnificence about it; it suggested a baronial hall of feudal times with its oaken panels, its high ceiling, its vast refectory tables where twoscore men could sit down to eat. About the hall were mounted heads of many animals–lions, tigers, elephants, moose, bears; larger or more perfect specimens Renee had never seen. At the great table the general was sitting, alone.
“You’ll have a cocktail, Ms. Sanger,” she suggested. The cocktail was surpassingly good; and, Renee noted, the table appointments were of the finest–the linen, the crystal, the silver, the china.
Half apologetically General Rowling said, “We do our best to preserve the amenities of civilization here. Please forgive any lapses. We are well off the beaten track, you know. Do you think the champagne has suffered from its long ocean trip?”
“Not in the least,” declared Renee. She was finding the general a most thoughtful and affable hostess, a true cosmopolite. But there was one small trait of .the general’s that made Renee uncomfortable. Whenever she looked up from her plate she found the general studying her, appraising her narrowly.
“Perhaps,” said General Rowling, “you were surprised that I recognized your name. You see, I read all books on hunting published in English, French, and Russian. I have but one passion in my life, Ms. Sanger, and it is the hunt.”
“You have some wonderful heads here,” said Renee as she ate a particularly well-cooked filet mignon. ” That Cape buffalo is the largest I ever saw.”
“Oh, that one. Yes, she was a monster.”
“Did she charge you?”
“Hurled me against a tree,” said the general. “Fractured my skull. But I got the brute.”
“I’ve always thought,” said Renee, “that the Cape buffalo is the most dangerous of all big game.”
For a moment the general did not reply; she was smiling her curious red-lipped smile. Then she said slowly, “No. You are wrong, madam. The Cape buffalo is not the most dangerous big game.” She sipped her wine. “Here in my preserve on this island,” she said in the same slow tone, “I hunt more dangerous game.”
Renee expressed her surprise. “Is there big game on this island?”
The general nodded. “The biggest.”
“Oh, it isn’t here naturally, of course. I have to stock the island.”
“What have you imported, general?” Renee asked. “Tigers?”
The general smiled. “No,” she said. “Hunting tigers ceased to interest me some years ago. I exhausted their possibilities, you see. No thrill left in tigers, no real danger. I live for danger, Ms. Sanger.”
The general took from her pocket a gold cigarette case and offered her guest a long black cigarette with a silver tip; it was perfumed and gave off a smell like incense.
“We will have some capital hunting, you and I,” said the general. “I shall be most glad to have your society.”
“But what game–” began Renee.
“I’ll tell you,” said the general. “You will be amused, I know. I think I may say, in all modesty, that I have done a rare thing. I have invented a new sensation. May I pour you another glass of port?”
“Thank you, general.”
The general filled both glasses and said, “God makes some doctors. Some he makes kings, some beggars. Me she made a writer. My hand was made for the pen, my father always said. He was a very rich man with a quarter of a million acres in the Crimea. When I was only five years old he gave me a little typewriter, specially made in Moscow for me, to write stories with. I sold my first novel when I was ten. My whole life has been one prolonged story, and I trust I do not boast when I say that I can tell a story better than anyone. It would be impossible for me to tell you how many stories I have written.”
The general puffed at her cigarette.
“It was in Africa that I wrote my first bestseller – that amused me for six months. After I tired of the parties, of the signings, of the openings, I started for the Amazon to write adult fiction, for I heard it was unusually diverting. It wasn’t.” General Rowling sighed. “It was no match at all for a writer with her wits about her and a decent word processor. I was bitterly disappointed. I was in my room with a splitting headache one night when a terrible thought pushed its way into my mind. Writing – publishing – success was beginning to bore me. And writing, remember, had been my life. The film adaptations of my books had all wrapped. I have heard that in America, writers whose film adaptations have all wrapped often go to pieces.”
“Yes, that’s so,” said Renee.
J.K. Rowling smiled. “I had no wish to go to pieces,” she said. “I must do something. Now, mine is an analytical mind, Ms. Sanger. Doubtless that is why I enjoy the problems of the chase.”
“No doubt, General Rowling.”
“So,” continued the general, “I asked myself why life no longer fascinated me.”
“What was it?”
“Simply this: it had ceased to be what you call `a sporting proposition.’ It had become too easy. I always got my quarry, always exceeded my print runs, always sold out my premieres. Always. There is no greater bore than perfection. I took up bare-knuckle boxing and mastered it within a month. I traveled here on there, on junks and steamers mostly, always under an assumed name, but the treasures of the East held no fascination for me.
“Then I began to hunt – for a short while it seemed as though this was the answer to my problem. Yet even that lost its appeal when I realized there was simply no animal alive who could outwit me, outrun me, outthink me. I grew weary of this too. Weary of everything. And then it came to me, in conversation with another of my kind – you know her as Suzanne Collins, I believe – an inspiration to what I, what we, must do.”
“And that was?”
“I had to invent something new to hunt. A new animal.”
“A new animal? You’re joking.”
“Not at all, said the general. “I never joke. I needed a new animal; I found one. I bought this island, built this house, and here I do my hunting. Every day I hunt, and I never grow bored now, for I have a quarry with which I can at long last match my wits.”
“But where do you get them?”
The general’s left eyelid fluttered down in a wink. “This island is called Ship Trap,” she answered. “Sometimes an angry god of the high seas sends them to me. Sometimes, when Providence is not so kind, I help Providence a bit. Come to the window with me.”
Renee went to the window and looked out toward the sea.
“Watch! Out there!” exclaimed the general, pointing into the night. Renee’s eyes saw only blackness, and then, as the general pressed a button, far out to sea Renee saw the flash of lights.
The general chuckled. “They indicate a channel,” she said, “where there is none; giant rocks with razor edges crouch like a sea monster with wide-open jaws. They can crush a ship as easily as I crush this nut.” she dropped a walnut on the hardwood floor and brought her heel grinding down on it. “Oh, yes,” she said, casually, as if in answer to a question, “I have electricity. We try to be civilized here.”
“What do you mean?”
“We’ll visit my training school tomorrow, you and I,” smiled Rowling. “It’s in the cellar. I have about a dozen pupils down there now. They’re from the Spanish bark San Lucar that had the bad luck to go on the rocks out there. A very inferior lot, I regret to say. Poor specimens and more accustomed to the deck than to the jungle.” she raised her hand, and Stephenie, who served as waiter, brought thick Turkish coffee. Renee, with an effort, held her tongue in check.
“It’s a game, you see,” pursued the general blandly. “I suggest to one of them that we go hunting. I give her a supply of food and an excellent hunting knife. I give her three hours’ start. I am to follow, armed only with a pistol of the smallest caliber and range. If my quarry eludes me for three whole days, she wins the game. If I find her-” the general smiled – “she loses.”
“Suppose she refuses to be hunted?”
“Oh,” said the general, “I give her the option, of course. She need not play that game if she doesn’t wish to. If she does not wish to hunt, I turn her over to Stephenie. Stephenie once had the honor of serving as official knouter to the Great White Czar, and she has her own ideas of sport. Invariably, Ms. Sanger, invariably they choose the hunt.”
“And if they win?”
The smile on the general’s face widened. “To date I have not lost,” she said. Then she added, hastily: “I don’t wish you to think me a braggart, Ms. Sanger. Many of them afford only the most elementary sort of problem. Occasionally I am lucky. One almost did win. I eventually had to use the dogs.”
General Rowling did not appear again the next day until luncheon. She was dressed faultlessly in tweeds and was solicitous about the state of Renee’s health.
“As for me,” sighed the general, “I do not feel so well. I am worried, Ms. Sanger. Last night I detected traces of my old complaint.”
To Renee’s questioning glance the general said, “Ennui. Boredom.”
Then, taking a second helping of crêpes Suzette, the general explained: “The hunting was not good last night. The quarry lost her head. she made a straight trail that offered no problems at all. That’s the trouble with these sailors; they have dull brains to begin with, and they do not know how to get about in the woods. They do excessively stupid and obvious things. It’s most annoying. Will you have another glass of Chablis, Ms. Sanger?”
“General,” said Renee firmly, “I wish to leave this island at once.”
The general raised her thickets of eyebrows; she seemed hurt. “But, my dear fellow,” the general protested, “you’ve only just come. You’ve had no hunting–”
“I wish to go today,” said Renee. she saw the dead black eyes of the general on her, studying her. General Rowling’s face suddenly brightened.
“Tonight,” said the general, “we will hunt–you and I.”
Renee shook her head. “No, general,” she said. “I will not hunt.”
The general shrugged her shoulders and delicately ate a hothouse grape. “As you wish, my friend,” she said. “The choice rests entirely with you. But may I not venture to suggest that you will find my idea of sport more diverting than Stephenie’s?”
She nodded toward the corner to where the giant stood, scowling, her thick arms crossed on her hogshead of chest.
“You don’t mean–” cried Renee.
“My dear girl,” said the general, “have I not told you I always mean what I say about hunting? This is really an inspiration. I drink to a foeman worthy of my steel–at last.” The general raised her glass, but Renee sat staring at her.
“You’ll find this game worth playing,” the general said enthusiastically.” Your brain against mine. Your woodcraft against mine. Your strength and stamina against mine. Outdoor chess! And the stake is not without value, eh?”
“And if I win–” began Renee huskily.
“I’ll cheerfully acknowledge myself defeat if I do not find you by midnight of the third day,” said General Rowling. “My sloop will place you on the mainland near a town.” The general read what Renee was thinking.
“Oh, you can trust me,” said the Cossack. “I will give you my word as a gentleman and a sportsman. Of course you, in turn, must agree to say nothing of your visit here.”
“I’ll agree to nothing of the kind,” said Renee.
The general sipped her wine. Then a businesslike air animated her. “Stephenie,” she said to Renee, “will supply you with hunting clothes, food, a knife. I suggest you wear moccasins; they leave a poorer trail. I suggest, too, that you avoid the big swamp in the southeast corner of the island. There’s quicksand there. One foolish fellow tried it. The deplorable part of it was that Lazarus followed her. You can imagine my feelings, Ms. Sanger. I loved Lazarus; she was the finest hound in my pack. Well, I must beg you to excuse me now. I always take a siesta after lunch. You’ll hardly have time for a nap, I fear. You’ll want to start, no doubt. I shall not follow till dusk. Hunting at night is so much more exciting than by day, don’t you think? Au revoir, Ms. Sanger, au revoir.” General Rowling, with a deep, courtly bow, strolled from the room.
She had not been entirely clearheaded when the chateau gates snapped shut behind her. Her whole idea at first was to put distance between herself and General Rowling; and, to this end, she had plunged along, spurred on by the sharp rowers of something very like panic. Now she had got a grip on herself, had stopped, and was taking stock of herself and the situation. She saw that straight flight was futile; inevitably it would bring her face to face with the sea.
“I’ll give her a trail to follow,” muttered Renee, and she struck off into the trackless wilderness. She executed a series of intricate loops; she doubled on her trail again and again, recalling all the lore of the fox hunt, and all the dodges of the fox. Night found her leg-weary, with hands and face lashed by the branches, on a thickly wooded ridge. She knew it would be insane to blunder on through the dark, even if she had the strength.
A big tree with a thick trunk and outspread branches was near by, and, taking care to leave not the slightest mark, she climbed up into the branches, and, stretching out on one of the broad limbs, after a fashion, rested. Rest brought her new confidence and almost a feeling of security. Even so zealous a hunter as General Rowling could not trace her there, she told herself; only the devil himself could follow that complicated trail through the jungle after dark. But perhaps the general was a devil–
An apprehensive night crawled slowly by and sleep did not visit Renee, although the silence of a dead world was on the jungle. Toward morning when a dingy gray was varnishing the sky, the cry of some startled bird focused Renee’s attention in that direction. Something was coming through the bush, coming slowly, carefully, coming by the same winding way Renee had come. she flattened herself down on the limb and, through a screen of leaves almost as thick as tapestry, she watched.
It was General Rowling. She made her way along with her eyes fixed in utmost concentration on the ground before her. She paused, almost beneath the tree, dropped to her knees and studied the ground. Renee’s impulse was to hurl herself down like a panther, but she saw that the general’s right hand held something metallic–a small automatic pistol.
The hunter shook her head several times, as if she were puzzled. Then she straightened up and took from her case one of her black cigarettes; its pungent incenselike smoke floated up to Renee’s nostrils.
Renee held her breath. The general’s eyes had left the ground and were traveling inch by inch up the tree. Renee froze there, every muscle tensed for a spring. But the sharp eyes of the hunter stopped before they reached the limb where Renee lay; a smile spread over her face. Very deliberately she blew a smoke ring into the air; then she turned her back on the tree and walked carelessly away, back along the trail she had come. The swish of the underbrush against her hunting boots grew fainter and fainter.
The pent-up air burst hotly from Renee’s lungs. Her first thought made her feel sick and numb. The general could follow a trail through the woods at night; she could follow an extremely difficult trail; she must have uncanny powers; only by the merest chance had the bestselling author of Harry Potter failed to see her quarry.
Renee’s second thought was even more terrible. It sent a shudder of cold horror through her whole being. Why had she smiled? Why had she turned back?
“I will not lose my nerve. I will not.”
She slid down from the tree, and struck off again into the woods. Her face was set and she forced the machinery of her mind to function. Three hundred yards from her hiding place she stopped where a huge dead tree leaned precariously on a smaller, living one. Throwing off her sack of food, Renee took her knife from its sheath and began to work with all her energy.
The job was finished at last, and she threw herself down behind a fallen log a hundred feet away. She did not have to wait long. The cat was coming again to play with the mouse.
Following the trail with the sureness of a bloodhound came General Rowling. Nothing escaped those searching black eyes, no crushed blade of grass, no bent twig, no mark, no matter how faint, in the moss. So intent was she on her stalking that she was upon the thing Renee had made before she saw it. Her foot touched the protruding bough that was the trigger. Even as she touched it, the general sensed her danger and leaped back. But she was not quite quick enough; the dead tree, delicately adjusted to rest on the cut living one, crashed down and struck the general a glancing blow on the shoulder as it fell; but for her alertness, she must have been smashed beneath it. She staggered, but she did not fall; nor did she drop her revolver. She stood there, rubbing her injured shoulder, and Renee, with fear again gripping her heart, heard the general’s mocking laugh ring through the jungle.
“Renee,” called the general, “if you are within sound of my voice, as I suppose you are, let me congratulate you. Not many know how to make a Malay mancatcher. Luckily for me I, too, have hunted in Malacca. You are proving interesting, Ms. Sanger. I am going now to have my wound dressed; it’s only a slight one. But I shall be back. I shall be back.”
When the general, nursing her bruised shoulder, had gone, Renee took up her flight again. It was flight now, a desperate, hopeless flight, that carried her on for some hours. Dusk came, then darkness, and still she pressed on. The ground grew softer under her moccasins; the vegetation grew ranker, denser; insects bit her savagely.
Then, as she stepped forward, her foot sank into the ooze. She tried to wrench it back, but the muck sucked viciously at her foot as if it were a giant leech. With a violent effort, she tore her feet loose. She knew where she was now. Death Swamp and its quicksand.
Renee had dug herself in in France when a second’s delay meant death. That had been a placid pastime compared to her digging now. The pit grew deeper; when it was above her shoulders, she climbed out and from some hard saplings cut stakes and sharpened them to a fine point. These stakes she planted in the bottom of the pit with the points sticking up. With flying fingers she wove a rough carpet of weeds and branches and with it she covered the mouth of the pit. Then, wet with sweat and aching with tiredness, she crouched behind the stump of a lightning-charred tree.
She knew her pursuer was coming; she heard the padding sound of feet on the soft earth, and the night breeze brought her the perfume of the general’s cigarette. It seemed to Renee that the general was coming with unusual swiftness; she was not feeling her way along, foot by foot. Renee, crouching there, could not see the general, nor could she see the pit. She lived a year in a minute. Then she felt an impulse to cry aloud with joy, for she heard the sharp crackle of the breaking branches as the cover of the pit gave way; she heard the sharp scream of pain as the pointed stakes found their mark. She leapt up from her place of concealment. Then she cowered back. Three feet from the pit a woman was standing, with an electric torch in her hand.
“You’ve done well, Renee,” the voice of the general called. “Your Burmese tiger pit has claimed one of my best dogs. Again you score. I think, Ms. Sanger, Ill see what you can do against my whole pack. I’m going home for a rest now. Thank you for a most amusing evening.”
At daybreak Renee, lying near the swamp, was awakened by a sound that made her know that she had new things to learn about fear. It was a distant sound, faint and wavering, but she knew it. It was the baying of a pack of hounds.
Renee knew she could do one of two things. she could stay where she was and wait. That was suicide. She could flee. That was postponing the inevitable. For a moment she stood there, thinking. An idea that held a wild chance came to her, and, tightening her belt, she headed away from the swamp.
The baying of the hounds drew nearer, then still nearer, nearer, ever nearer. On a ridge Renee climbed a tree. Down a watercourse, not a quarter of a mile away, she could see the bush moving. Straining her eyes, she saw the lean figure of General Rowling; just ahead of her Renee made out another figure whose wide shoulders surged through the tall jungle weeds; it was the giant Stephenie, and she seemed pulled forward by some unseen force; Renee knew that Stephenie must be holding the pack in leash.
They would be on her any minute now. Her mind worked frantically. she thought of a native trick she had learned in Uganda. She slid down the tree. She caught hold of a springy young sapling and to it she fastened her hunting knife, with the blade pointing down the trail; with a bit of wild grapevine she tied back the sapling. Then she ran for her life. The hounds raised their voices as they hit the fresh scent.
She had to stop to get her breath. The baying of the hounds stopped abruptly, and Renee’s heart stopped too. They must have reached the knife.
She shinned excitedly up a tree and looked back. Her pursuers had stopped. But the hope that was in Renee’s brain when she climbed died, for she saw in the shallow valley that General Rowling was still on her feet. But Stephenie was not. The knife, driven by the recoil of the springing tree, had not wholly failed.
Renee had hardly tumbled to the ground when the pack took up the cry again.
“Nerve, nerve, nerve!” she panted, as she dashed along. A blue gap showed between the trees dead ahead. Ever nearer drew the hounds. Renee forced herself on toward that gap. she reached it. It was the shore of the sea. Across a cove she could see the gloomy gray stone of the chateau. Twenty feet below her the sea rumbled and hersed. Renee hesitated. she heard the hounds. Then she leaped far out into the sea.
When the general and her pack reached the place by the sea, the Cossack stopped. For some minutes she stood regarding the blue-green expanse of water. she shrugged her shoulders. Then be sat down, took a drink of brandy from a silver flask, lit a cigarette, and hummed a bit from Madame Butterfly.
General Rowling had an exceedingly good dinner in her great paneled dining hall that evening. With it she had a bottle of Pol Roger and half a bottle of Chambertin. Two slight annoyances kept her from perfect enjoyment. One was the thought that it would be difficult to replace Stephenie; the other was that her quarry had escaped her; of course, the American hadn’t played the game–so thought the general as she tasted her after-dinner liqueur. In her library she read, to soothe herself, from the works of Marcus Aurelius. At ten she went up to her bedroom. she was deliciously tired, she said to herself, as she locked herself in. There was a little moonlight, so, before turning on her light, she went to the window and looked down at the courtyard. she could see the great hounds, and she called, “Better luck another time,” to them. Then she switched on the light.
A woman, who had been hiding in the curtains of the bed, was standing there.
“Renee!” screamed the general. “How in God’s name did you get here?”
“Swam,” said Renee. “I found it quicker than walking through the jungle.”
The general sucked in her breath and smiled. “I congratulate you,” she said. “You have won the game.”
Renee did not smile. “I am still a beast at bay,” she said, in a low, hoarse voice. “Get ready, General Rowling.”
The general made one of her deepest bows. “I see,” she said. “Splendid! One of us is to furnish a repast for the hounds. The other will sleep in this very excellent bed. En guarde, Renee.”
She had never slept in a better bed, Renee decided.
[Image via Wenn]